Research reveals cloud’s role in business’s COVID-19 survival

Johannesburg, 24 Aug 2021
Vibhu Kapoor, Regional Vice-President Epicor Software, Middle East, Africa & India.
Vibhu Kapoor, Regional Vice-President Epicor Software, Middle East, Africa & India.

While most businesses have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, the impact on those that had most or all of their systems in the cloud was significantly lighter.

According to the latest Epicor Industry Insights Report, a survey of 1 250 technology decision-makers across a wide range of industries and geographies found that of the 36% that were negatively impacted by COVID-19, 48% were mostly or all on-premises and 34% were evenly in the cloud and on-premises. This contrasts to the 31% that were mostly or all in the cloud.

The survey also revealed that adoption of and trust in cloud technology mushroomed in the past year as businesses sought to adapt to the rapidly changing world wrought by COVID-19.

In his foreword to the report, Epicor CEO Steve Murphy pointed out: “In the space of a few months, mobile solutions became a practical necessity for many businesses, from contactless delivery to robust e-commerce systems. This new reality brought an urgent need for scalability, flexibility, agility and security. The good news is that the new generation of cloud-based productivity solutions deliver all of these benefits and more, as revealed in our research.”

While just a quarter of businesses quizzed early in 2020 deemed cloud a strategic priority, only one year later, 94% declared an interest in cloud-based solutions and 82% had migrated some functions to the cloud.

At the time of the survey, the level of cloud adoption among respondents was high, with 94% of businesses having at least some cloud or SaaS solutions. Almost half of the respondents (47%) were mostly or all in the cloud; 25% were evenly in the cloud and on-premises; and 28% mostly or all on-premises.

Despite the growing acceptance of cloud, the research also found that many businesses continue to feel more comfortable with an on-premises solution and are reluctant to change.

“This is unfortunate, because the survey found that 42% of businesses that are mostly or all on-premises and 23% of those businesses that are evenly in the cloud and on-premises feel they are behind in their field, compared to only 8% of those most or all in the cloud,” says Vibhu Kapoor, Regional Vice-President of Epicor Software, Middle East, Africa & India.

What’s holding them back, he adds, are common misconceptions about cloud.

“The research shows that many of the common concerns about the cloud – that it’s difficult to migrate into existing systems; that it’s not as secure as an on-premises solution; that it’s not always flexible and may not meet specific business needs; and that it is unable to enable companies to comply with data and privacy regulations – are not supported by the actual experience of those using cloud systems,” Kapoor says.

“On the contrary, business leaders have found cloud to be particularly useful when it comes to adaptability and security, as well as future proofing the organisation for unexpected changes.”

Over 90% of survey respondents mostly in the cloud agreed that cloud is flexible enough to meet their business needs. They argue that cloud – with its built-in scalability, simple integration and easier compliance (86% of businesses all or mostly in the cloud say it’s easier to adhere to government regulations) – builds flexibility and adaptability into industry productivity solutions.

Another a major concern for the decision-makers polled is cyber security. Cyber criminals were quick to take advantage of the security weaknesses exposed by the rapid shift to working from home lockdown requirements. Most respondents pointed to the improved security inherent in the cloud as one of the most important benefits realised from their migration to the cloud. Almost nine in 10 businesses maintain that their data is safer in cloud-based solutions.

“While some might feel that hosting a system in the cloud is akin to placing precious data in unknown territory, nothing could be further from the truth. From keeping files safely encrypted to installing firewalls and gatekeepers, cloud enables business to stay a few steps ahead of any security issues,” Kapoor says.

“Data in the cloud is also consistently backed up in separate servers, often thousands of kilometres apart, helping to ensure that the files are safe, regardless of what might be happening in a specific location. Importantly, cloud ensures that legacy data is easily accessible to the right people wherever they may be, thanks to multi-factor identification. By contrast, on-premises solutions can be harder to protect physically as well as from cyber threats.”

Kapoor points out that when businesses run their e-mail on the same servers or network as their business applications, hackers can easily gain access to critical business processes and data through successful phishing attacks.

“Cloud can provide the ideal solution with a smart isolation strategy that separates e-mail from business applications such as ERP,” he explains.

The survey also found that cloud is likely to play a key role in how quickly businesses recover from the effects of COVID-19. Although 77% of businesses surveyed expect to have recovered by the end of 2022, those businesses that are mostly or all on-premises think they will need longer.

“Without instant access to the cloud-based tools that allow their business to utilise a mobile workforce, scale as required and respond to real-time data, they find themselves having to rework on-premises solutions to keep up with the fast-changing business conditions. And that takes time,” Kapoor says.

Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of all or mostly in the cloud businesses are projecting more than just recovery – they are planning on expansion in the next year.

However, he warns against businesses rushing into the cloud in order to take advantage of its many benefits.

“The research clearly shows that migration to the cloud is a journey that needs support from an expert partner rather than just a provider. This is particularly necessary in areas such as data backup, the availability of a dedicated migration team and the development of a tailored migration roadmap built,” he concludes.